Animal Kingdom is the youngest park at Walt Disney World. It’s also one of the most unique thanks to its zoo-like atmosphere.
Even though there are a variety of animals to see, including giraffes, zebras, and elephants, it’s far different than a zoo.
Animal Kingdom is known for having some of the best park food on property, thrilling attractions, exciting tours, and much, much more.
As the biggest Disney World theme park, there’s a lot to see and do, so why not take a deep dive into each land?
Below we explore Discovery Island, the main hub of Animal Kingdom. The park’s most popular attractions may not be part of this land, but there are so many other fantastic elements.
Its beauty is undeniable, especially thanks to the large and breathtaking Tree of Life. Let’s look into Discovery Island and all it has to offer.
Location: Animal Kingdom
Restaurants: 10 Quick Service (2 Snack and Drink Carts, The Feeding Ground, Creature Comforts – Starbucks, Pizzafari, Terra Treats, The Smiling Crocodile, Eight Spoon Café, Flame Tree Barbecue, Isle of Java ); 2 Table Service (Nomad Lounge, Tiffins)
Shops: Island Mercantile, Riverside Depot, Discovery Traders, Tiffins Merchandise Cart
Entertainment: Winged Encounters — The Kingdom Takes Flight, Viva Gaia Street Band!, Beacon of Magic, Tree of Life Awakenings, Mickey and Friends Flotilla, Discovery Island Drummers Flotilla, Discovery River Character Cruise, Adventurer’s Flotilla — Disney Ducks, Adventurer’s Flotilla – Up
Animals: Vultures, Kangaroos, Otters, Cotton-Top Tamarins, Flamingos, Tortoises, Migratory Birds, Porcupines, Lemurs
Attractions: It’s Tough to be a Bug!
Trails: Discovery Island Trail, Tree of Life Garden
Characters: Mickey and Minnie, Kevin
Popular snacks and drinks: Bread Service, Churros, Tempting Tigress, Leaping Lizard, Annapurna Zing, Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale Draft (Nomad Lounge), Mickey Colossal Cinnamon Roll (Creature Comforts)
Not-to-miss: Nomad Lounge, Winged Encounters, Tree of Life Awakening, Discovery Island Trail, characters, flotillas
Discovery Island Map
Discovery Island has a range of both Quick Service and Table Service restaurants with some really great food and drink options, including one of our favorites — Nomad Lounge.
Quick Service Restaurants
Snack and Drink Cart
As soon as you cross the bridge from the Oasis into Discovery Island, you’ll see a snack and drink cart to the left outside of Island Mercantile. You can find bottled beverages and novelty snack items, like Mickey ice cream bars.
Creature Comforts (Starbucks)
If you’re looking for Starbucks, go no further. Creature Comforts is the one and only Starbucks location in Animal Kingdom.
You’ll be able to find it in Discovery Island as you walk towards Africa.
As you can see, this Starbucks is well-themed and embodies all of the Animal Kingdom vibes.
Of course, you can order Starbucks coffee and other beverages here. If you’re looking for a popular treat, the Mickey Colossal Cinnamon Roll is the way to go.
Depending on the special occasion or holiday occurring, the icing on the cinnamon roll just might have a unique color.
Pizzafari is a popular Quick Service spot that’s also a good choice for anyone who is a pickier eater.
You can find standard theme park food here, specifically pizzas. Choose from cheese, pepperoni, sausage and pepperoni, along with salads and a chicken parmesan sandwich, to name a few.
Because Pizzafari can get busy, we recommend utilizing Mobile Order, even more so during peak eating times.
Pizzafari has a lot of seating, including tables and chairs indoors and outdoors. If you are looking for a place to rest, cool off, and eat, you may want to try here.
Snack and Drink Cart
Near Pizzafari and the restrooms, there is a snack and drink cart serving bottled beverages, popcorn, and other snacks, including Mickey ice cream bars and ice cream sandwiches.
As you walk into Africa from Discovery Island, Terra Treats is on your right before the bridge.
There aren’t many food and drink options here. The menu isn’t that exciting either.
However, if you want a quick bite, this might be a good place to try. And if you want pizza but Pizzafari is just too busy, you can order slices of pizza at Terra Treats!
The Smiling Crocodile
The Smiling Crocodile is near the entrance to Asia from Discovery Island.
You can order a variety of tacos at the small stand, like pulled pork, street corn, and chicken. Chips and salsa are also usually on the menu.
Eight Spoon Café
Across from the Adventurers Outpost (where you can meet Mickey and Minnie), is the Eight Spoon Café, another small stand that sells several food and drink items.
From baked macaroni and cheese, to a pulled pork jelly doughnut sandwich, to baked macaroni and cheese served with pulled pork, these hearty dishes make for a great quick lunch or dinner.
The stand also serves bottled beverages and snacks like Mickey Pretzels with cheese.
The Feeding Ground
Near the It’s Tough to be a Bug! entrance, The Feeding Ground is a small drink and snack stand that serves standard park snacks.
From select bottled beverages, to fountain drinks, to Disney popcorn, this makes for a quick and easy spot to grab something while you’re on the go.
Flame Tree Barbecue
Flame Tree Barbecue is the best Quick Service location in Discovery Island. The menu has a variety of choices for lunch and dinner.
If you’re in the mood for a meat heavy dish, Flame Tree has ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and more.
If meat isn’t part of your diet vocabulary, don’t worry, because there’s a plant-based Hot Link Smokehouse Sandwich that is very good.
It comes with plant-based sausage topped with a tangy mustard barbecue sauce, slaw, and crispy onions on a house-made New England-style roll.
In addition to the food, you can usually try different non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, including frozen drinks.
Some drinks also change with the season, so always check the menu to see if there’s anything new.
Not only are the food and drinks delicious, but Flame Tree’s seating area is unbeatable. Granted, if it’s raining or extremely hot, it’s not the best.
But, during those lovely sunny days, you can’t top the restaurant’s outdoor seating. It’s one of the prettiest seating areas in Disney World. That’s not a joke.
Just look it:
Plus, there are so many tables and chairs to choose from. There’s a seat for everyone.
Oh, and you have amazing views of Expedition Everest and the flotillas that come by throughout the day. Basically, you get a meal and a show.
When KiteTails was still playing, this was also a great place to watch the daytime show. Sadly, that’s no longer an option.
Tip: Mobile Order is available here, so be sure to use if during busier dining times.
Isle of Java
The Isle of Java is located right before the bridge you take to cross into DinoLand, U.S.A.
And, yes, this is also where you can order Joffrey’s coffee.
Plus, there are other tasty treats, like a tiger tail chocolate twist, blueberry muffin, Mickey Pretzel, and more.
Table Service Restaurants
Nomad Lounge is hands-down the one place everyone should eat when visiting Animal Kingdom. Yes, it is that good.
First of all, the theming is spot-on. Secondly, there is both indoor and outdoor seating, with the latter offering views of the Discovery River and flotillas. If it’s not too hot out and you want to be able watch characters float by as you eat and drink, request a seat outside.
Finally, the menu is perfection. There are all kinds of small bites you can order. We especially love the churros (which are also gluten-free), Tiffins bread service, and the Impossible Sliders.
Even though it’s only listed on the Tiffins menu, you can also order the Gobi Manchurian, crispy-fried cauliflower with Manchurian sauce and green onion. You won’t be disappointed.
As for drinks, you can’t go wrong with any of the cocktails, but we recommend the Sinaloa Sangria and Annapurna Zing (order without the glowing lotus flower for a reduced price).
If you’re more of a beer person, try the Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale Draft. This is an African-inspired deep amber ale that was brewed exclusively for Disney World.
There are plenty of non-alcoholic cocktails you can order, as well.
Nomad Lounge doesn’t accept reservations and walk-up capacity can fill up quickly. You can join the walk-up list in the My Disney Experience app rather than physically walking up to the host/hostess stand.
Sometimes wait times aren’t as long as you’re told, but if this is a top priority, you’ll definitely want to plan accordingly.
Connected to Nomad Lounge is Tiffins Restaurant, a Signature Dining experience where you can try African and Asian cuisine.
From charred octopus as an appetizer, to shrimp and grits for a main course, to a tropical trifle for dessert, Tiffins’ menu offers items that you can’t get anywhere else across Disney World.
Reservations are accepted here up to 60 days in advance.
There are several seating areas throughout Discovery Island.
Flame Tree Barbecue has a ton of outdoor seating offering stunning views of Expedition Everest.
If you aren’t ordering from the Quick Service location, you can walk to the left of where you order and pick up food that leads to all of the seating.
Pizzafari has both indoor and outdoor seating available to all guests. If you sit outside here, it makes for great people watching.
Discovery Island has several stores offering a wide range of merchandise, including Minnie ears, spirit jerseys, bags, keychains, socks, seasonal items, and more. These are some of the best stores to explore while in Animal Kingdom.
You can shop for a range of items at Island Mercantile, including Avatar-themed merchandise.
If you don’t have time or simply don’t want to walk back to Pandora to shop, you can find different toys and apparel inspired by the land and movie.
There are other Disney offerings here as well, including shirts, jewelry, hats, and ears.
Riverside Depot has a great Disney home goods and kitchen area. This is where you’ll want to stop if you’re looking for a coffee mug.
You can even find Star Wars items.
This store connects to the Discovery Trading Company, another shop in this land.
Discovery Trading Company
Discovery Trading Company is a good-sized gift shop selling all kinds of merch, including spirit jerseys.
This store also has a variety of Pixar, Disney, and Star Wars socks.
You can even find a portable phone charging station (aka where you can swap and purchase FuelRods) at Discovery Trading Company.
Tiffins Merchandise Cart
If you look across from Tiffins and Nomad Lounge, you’ll see a stand that is covered. This is known as the “Tiffins Merchandise Cart.” More often than not it seems to be closed, but as you walk from Discovery Island to Pandora keep your eyes peeled because you never know when it will be open.
There is one main attraction in Discovery Island. It’s one either you’re going to love or hate. It might even frighten kids — and possibly adults.
It’s Tough to be a Bug!
It’s Tough to be a Bug! is about a 10-minute 3D film inspired by Disney and Pixar’s A Bug’s Life.
What’s cool about this attraction is that this theater is at the base of the Tree of Life.
That said, it does have scary moments that both kids and adults may not like, including flying quills shooting out from a tarantula.
This can make for a nice, short break if you want to rest or cool off. And if you need a time filler, this is a good option.
We don’t recommend using a Genie+ Lightning Lane selection for It’s Tough to be a Bug! because the show runs continuously throughout the day and it isn’t a top attraction.
Tip: As you exit the attraction, pay attention to both the animals and the views.
If you want to see Kevin from Up in the wild or meet Mickey and Minnie in their world traveling outfits, go no further!
Mickey and Minnie
At the Adventurers Outpost, you can meet Mickey and Minnie in their adventure outfits.
This is a popular meet and greet, so much so, the wait times can build depending on the day and crowds.
That said, you can use a Genie+ Lightning Lane selection here if you’ve purchase the service for the day.
You can check wait times for meeting Mickey and Minnie in the My Disney Experience app.
One of the best parts of Discovery island is seeing Kevin from Up roaming. She’s constantly on the move and doesn’t have a specific spot for photos.
To make sure you catch her, Kevin’s roam times are posted in the My Disney Experience app. If you filter by “Characters,” you’ll see Kevin listed (tap her name for specific times).
Discovery Island is known for its vibrant and unique entertainment. The following you certainly don’t want to miss during your visit.
Winged Encounters — The Kingdom Takes Flight
This is a truly cool show, albeit being in the direct sunlight with zero shade.
But, if you’re hanging around the Tree of Life area in Discovery Island, make time for Winged Encounters. It’s the best type of bird-watching.
You get to watch 6 species of South American macaw fly around and they are absolutely stunning. It’s pretty spectacular.
There are also bird care experts running the show discussing macaw facts, which are super interesting.
A showtime range is listed in the My Disney Experience app. Shows happen sporadically throughout the day. You can always ask a Cast Member when the next show is set to begin.
Viva Gaia Street Band!
The Viva Gaia Street Band! plays daily on the stage across from Flame Tree Barbecue.
Between the music, singing, talents, and costumes, this show is fun and will give you all kinds of energy.
Each set is usually about 30 minutes or so. Showtimes are posted in the My Disney Experience app.
Keep in mind that sometimes this stage is decorated for special occasions, like when there’s a new movie release. You may even find a sand sculpture from time to time.
Tree of Life Awakenings
In the evenings, the Tree of Life comes to life with magical projections displayed on the trunk and beautiful lights on the branches and leaves.
Depending on the time of year, you may even catch a special holiday awakening.
The nighttime show plays about every 15 minutes throughout the evening. There isn’t a set schedule, so there is no need to line up hours beforehand. You can easily catch it in passing.
Keep in mind that depending on when the park closes each day, it might not be dark enough for the Tree of Life Awakenings to run.
Animal Kingdom is known for closing the earliest out of all the theme parks and sometimes it’s still daylight when it does.
But, if it is dark enough before the park closes for the day, the show starts at dusk. You should be able to find a start time in the My Disney Experience app.
Beacon of Magic
For Disney World’s 50th anniversary, the Tree of Life turns into a Beacon of Magic in the evenings.
This show is similar to the standard Tree of Life Awakenings, but a special show for the anniversary.
The Beacon of Magic also alternates with Tree of Life Awakenings and plays about every 15 minutes. There isn’t a set schedule, so you don’t need to grab a spot early.
Know that depending on when the park closes each day, it might not be dark enough for the Beacon of Magic to show.
Animal Kingdom usually closes the earliest out of all the theme parks and sometimes it is still daylight when it does.
But, if it is dark enough before the park closes for the day, the Beacon will begin at dusk. You should be able to find a start time in the My Disney Experience app.
Note about the following cavalcades: All of the character flotillas can be seen sailing around the Discovery River. They have set showtimes that are posted in the My Disney Experience app and we recommend checking the schedule ahead of time. You usually have to be in the right place at the right time to catch them (crossing a bridge, walking a trail, dining at Nomad Lounge or Flame Tree Barbecue, or taking a break in the Discovery River Amphitheater).
Mickey and Friends Flotilla
- Features: Mickey and Minnie
Discovery Island Drummers Flotilla
- Features: Discovery Island Drummers
Discovery River Character Cruise
- Features: Pocahontas and Meeko from Pocahontas or Timon and Rafiki form The Lion King
Adventurer’s Flotilla — Disney Ducks
- Features: Scrooge McDuck and Launchpad McQuack
Adventurer’s Flotilla – Up
- Features: Russell and Dug from Up
Besides the animals, another special part of Animal Kingdom are its trails.
There are 2 you can explore in Discovery Island. They offer breathtaking views of other areas of the park, Tree of Life, and greenery.
Many of the trails connect no matter where you enter, so keep walking and see where you end up!
Save this map for future reference as you explore the Discovery Island trails:
Discovery Island Trail
You can find 2 entrances to the Discovery Island Trail:
- One near Pizzafari (towards Africa)
- One across from Adventurers Outpost (towards Asia)
Tree of Life Garden
There is one main entrance for the Tree of Life Garden, which you can find across from the restrooms next to Pizzafari as you walk towards Africa.
What makes this trail so special is the amazing views you get of the Tree of Life.
Discovery Island is home to many different animals. We recommend taking the time to actually search for the following creatures and learn about each one. After all, you are visiting a park about animals and conservation.
Save this map for future reference as you explore Discovery Island for animals:
Tip: You can also find select animals in the My Disney Experience app under the “attractions” category. Plus, at the park entrance next to the park guide map, there should be literature on the animals and their locations.
Keep in mind that you can’t necessarily see the vultures up close, but from afar as they are usually near the Tree of Life.
Believe it or not, some guests don’t even know Animal Kingdom has kangaroos, because they aren’t listed in the My Disney Experience app.
While they are known to hop around, usually you can spot them by the Tree of Life.
As you walk towards Africa and right before you get to the Otters, there is a section you can enter to observe the kangaroos.
You’ll be able to see them from afar, as they are usually hanging out by the Tree of Life.
The otters are some of the cutest and most popular animals at Animal Kingdom.
Sadly, they aren’t always out and are easy to miss, but when you do get to see them, it’s so worth it.
You’ll come upon Otter Grotto on your right as you walk from Discovery Island towards Africa.
Next to Terra Treats (right before you enter Africa), you’ll see the Cotton-Top Tamarins.
Some of them are tiny or good at hiding, so take a minute to look for them.
As you first enter the Discovery Island Trail (the entrance near Pizzafari), you’ll stumble upon some flamingos.
The Galapagos Tortoises are located close to the Tree of Life base and near It’s Tough to be a Bug!
You should definitely take some time to visit them. They are really interesting and we’ve personally seen some cool interactions between the tortoises.
Next to the tortoises are African Crested Porcupine. If you don’t see any during your visit, know that sometimes they aren’t out because the flotillas can scare them.
As you can see below, Disney has the Migratory Birds marked in a specific location.
But, as you walk around the trails and the Tree of Life, you’ll be able to see these different birds, which are listed as White Stork, Saddled-Billed Stork, and West African Crowned Crane.
Behind Dug & Russell’s Wilderness Explorer Clubhouse, which is currently being used for stroller parking, there is a path that is somewhat hidden that leads to the lemurs.
You can also access the lemurs via the It’s Tough to be a Bug! exit path.
Discovery Island has a couple activities, including one straight from the movie Up.
Wilderness Explorers gives guests of all ages the chance to channel Russell from Up and earn badges to become a Wilderness Explorer.
This activity is complimentary. All you have to do is stop at the “Wilderness Explorer headquarters” stand, which is located right off the bridge connecting the Oasis to Discovery Island, to pick up a handbook.
You can also get a handbook from Wilderness Explorer Troop Leader locations in Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia, Dinoland U.S.A., and Pandora.
A fellow Wilderness Explorer will give you everything you need before setting out on self-guided nature-themed challenges you’ll complete around Animal Kingdom.
Once you’ve collected over 25 badges, you’ll be able to call yourself a “Wilderness Explorer” and also recite the famous call (IYKYK).
Coin Press Machines
There are several coin press machines in Discovery Island. They are as follows:
Island Mercantile has 8 different Zootopia-themed designs! You can purchase 1 for $1.00 or all 8 for $5.00.
You can find a range of designs at Riverside Depot, including characters from A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Aladdin, and Tarzan. You can purchase 1 for $1.00 or all 8 for $5.00.
The Discovery Trading Company has 3 different coin press machines with a variety of designs, including Coco, Lilo & Stitch, Monsters Inc., The Lion King, Pocahontas, and Animal Kingdom, to name a few. You can get 1 coin for $1.00 or 3 for $3.00.